Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Two pieces on silence

"Camus has been forced to become silent because everything about North Africa paralyzes him…. It must be understood that his situation is by no means easy; it is not intellectually or emotionally easy to have all of one’s family on a side that is morally condemned" Albert Memmi in the New York Review of books

Regarding Virginia Woolf's writing, "[w]hen your power is limited, when you cannot vote, when your opinions and contributions are dismissed solely because of your gender, then the disgrace of witnessing your own people butcher and be butchered must not only cause you to revisit everything you assumed about human nature but also asks you to view it from the distance of the outsider... Sebald was [also] an inheritor of a dark history, interested in the shame of the progeny. Like the South African author J. M. Coetzee, his contemporary, Sebald was concerned with how to convey not savagery and guilt but their inheritance. Woolf, excluded from the vote and therefore from politics and the decisions that lead countries to war and peace, shared with them the condition of being implicated in the actions of others. It seems every great novelist is conscious of being both implicated in and subject to history... Still, she was heavily criticized for what was perceived as an evasion. She was subjected to passionate calls by noted figures. She kept her poise, Hers is a singular example of literary independence. And now we can see that her decision of expressing the tremors of the masculine epic of war through domestic life was poignantly subversive, true, and truly free... With each book she became more obsessed with language and how when we speak we often fall short of or else exceed what we intended to express. Talking as a betrayal: saying too much, or not enough... How fortunate that our thoughts do not dance in visible letters above our heads. If they did, any contact between human beings, even a harmless social gathering such as this, could easily become a convocation of murderers... All great writing is infected with silence, but it is very rare indeed to observe a master wielding that vacuum blankness of the unsaid with such elegant precision. Part of the effect is that you feel you are inside a mind, inhabiting another’s interiority... Everything out there is unknown, and the lighthouse has no hope to illuminate where we are heading. All it does is call attention to itself and the rock it stands on. It is a perpetual circular warning, a white scream..."

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